What You Need to Know About the Crime of Mail Fraud

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerThe crime of mail fraud was first addressed by the federal government in the mid-1800s after evidence surfaced that people were using the U.S. mail system to conduct various scams. The interstate nature of the mail (and eventually wire service) effectively required the matter to be one of federal interest. As a result, in 1872, it became a federal crime for a person to use mail services—and now the internet—to willingly and knowingly deprive another person of their money, property, and/or services.

It is important to keep in mind that in order for an act or scheme to constitute mail or wire fraud, it must intend to defraud another party by means of wire communication or the mail. This means that an advertisement for a legitimate product or service—even one that is deceptive or misleading—is not generally considered fraudulent. The intent of the accused is the key to the case. The suspect must have intended to obtain something for nothing in order for the act to constitute fraud.

State and Federal Charges

In Illinois and some other states, wire and mail fraud are also prosecutable at the state level. If you are charged with both state-level mail fraud and federal mail fraud, your cases will likely be pushed up to federal court. The elements of such cases are similar at both levels.

According to both Illinois and U.S. law, an individual commits the crime of mail fraud when he or she develops a plan to defraud another party of money by means of mail communication. The person’s intent to defraud is considered present if he or she:

  • Puts a fraudulent communication in a U.S. mailbox, post office, or other authorized depository to be sent by the United States Postal Service (USPS)
  • Deposits a fraudulent mailing that is to be sent by a commercial or private delivery service, such as UPS or FedEx
  • Intentionally causes a fraudulent communication to be delivered by the USPS or any other carrier service

Federal Penalties for Mail Fraud

When mail fraud charges are filed at the federal level, the penalties for a conviction are likely to be severe. A conviction on a single count of mail fraud can result in up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $250,000. If the fraud was related to federal disaster relief programs or the victim was a financial institution, the penalties can be increased to up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines. In many cases, a convicted suspect must also pay restitution to his or her victims.

Contact a Chicago Federal Fraud Defense Attorney

If you or someone you love is facing federal or state charges for mail fraud, it is important to seek legal help immediately. Contact an experienced Cook County federal white-collar crimes lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel today. Call 312-270-0999 to schedule a free consultation. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day to serve you.

Sources:

https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-940-18-usc-section-1341-elements-mail-fraud

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=072000050K17-24

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